Before I had even started my period, at just twelve years old, I was dragged off and put into an NHS mental health hospital in Newcastle, England known then as 'Roycroft Clinic', and subjected to years and years of sexual, physical, mental, and financial abuse. Forget going down to the fiery pits of hell with the devil, I learned at such a young, delicate age that the scariest thing of all is what humans can do to each other. Locked hundreds of miles away from my father with no mobile phone or laptop, the only way I could communicate most of the time was through letter. I had to learn to express myself on paper and learn quickly. I was subjected to torturous abuse daily. I witnessed staff sexually abuse patients right in front of my eyes, hot water being thrown around, people being starved and people being told to “just speed it up and kill yourself”. All around me was a feeling of hopelessness, a stomach-churning feeling of desperation.
Whilst living under such harsh conditions I entered survival mode. I quickly realized that since I couldn’t control what was happening all around me, I needed to control myself and the way I was viewing the situation. So, I thought about what I actually did have and that was time. I accepted the situation for what it was, which is the first step. Instead of using each day to try and fight against what was happening, I spent as much time as I could every single day writing. I turned a negative into a positive. Although it sounds like a simple thing not worth a mention, it was the thing that actually kept me alive. Writing didn’t need any fancy “contraband” equipment and I was quickly able to escape into a world where I wasn’t being abused or being kept locked away in a small cell-like room. I was able to mentally escape. The staff couldn’t get me there. I started to wake up each morning with the drive to get to work on my writing. I came up with such realistic characters I could almost hear them talking the manuscript back to me, they became my friends. I set myself tasks and each week submitted work to magazines. I gave myself a routine that I enjoyed. I ended up writing hundreds of poems and short stories and I ended up winning various awards and getting published numerous times. I was free. Maybe not physically, but mentally I was.
At seventeen I was finally released from that particular unit but was then sent to Woodlands, Garrow House, Huntercombe Hospital, St Andrew Place and Hawthorne Court, with absolutely no say at all, like a parcel.
Whilst at Hawthorne Court I created an online dating profile and met a woman who I quickly fell in love with. We met up and quickly started a relationship. She brightened up my life. Things were starting to look up for me. I was then put into supported accommodation but was quickly evicted to the street after I smashed a glass bottle in the communal area and slashed my wrists. My father allowed me to stay with him for two months while he found me a cheap place to stay.
He found me a small, one room bedsit about a mile away from his house. He forced me to take it so I did. This place had mold, no heating and rats. Heroin users hung out in the hallways and that feeling of being rejected returned once more. Luckily, after around two months of being there, I was offered another property by a charity, only five streets away from my father. Soon after, the relationship I had with my girlfriend broke down and I was subsequently thrown headfirst into the deepest, darkest abyss I'd ever experienced. I rang for help. I rang for help a lot. I rang for help daily but was told I needed to live on my own and be independent. They were deliberately putting aside the eight years of ingrained institutionalization, of abuse day in, day out. I rang services and told them that I couldn't cope living alone with no support. I often felt suicidal and, under the instruction of my GP and other people, used to ring the crisis team hoping to get some support. Sadly, half the time I couldn’t get through and was simply placed on hold for stupidly long periods of time, ranging from ten minutes to two hours and on the occasions that I actually could get through, I got through to a tired, fed-up sounding person who casually told me to make a cup of tea and go to bed. I went on to cut my arm and wrist so deeply that it needed twelve stitches and has resulted in permanent scarring.
I ended up being sent to court and charged for 'wasting the crisis team's time'. Punished for struggling. Criminal record. I will never, ever forgive them for that. My name, age, photo and street address were printed in two newspapers saying that I was making things up and wasting mental health services time. I couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes. A deliberate cull to keep me quiet about what I had been through.
Desperate for a completely fresh start in my life, I changed my name and moved to Bradford. I packed a suitcase and left everything behind in Hull. A few material items meant nothing to me, you can buy a new sofa but not a new life. I rented a room in student accommodation but was sexually assaulted after just two weeks and put into a nearby bed and breakfast for safety. After two weeks the case got dropped, lack of evidence. However, two days after my twenty third birthday a woman I will refer to as 'J' got in touch with me on Facebook and told me that she'd help me get somewhere to stay in Leeds. She told me she'd meet me the next day in Leeds housing office, and she stuck to her word. Within two months she had gotten me a support worker and a council house. Everywhere I go I carry the purple jewel that she gave to me as a symbol of karma and luck. I firmly believe that if you hold on to hope, good things will come.
Fast forward to this present day in 2021. I've been self-harm free for many years, am making money from my three published books of poetry, make daily motivational videos inspiring people, and am about halfway through writing my debut novel detailing what I went through and how I survived. I am an example of determination and resilience. If you stick at something and really put your mind to it, you can achieve your dreams. I write to raise awareness, and I stand up for the oppressed, the people that were told to be quiet. I write about people being told to “get on with it” by crisis teams and disabled people’s benefits being slashed, leaving people to starve to death. I will never stop campaigning for a fairer system. Horrific things are still constantly happening day in, day out. People are still getting turned away from mental health units and killing themselves shortly afterward, people are losing loved ones and not getting apologies. The unwell are getting culled like foxes. Suicidal people are being told to go to A&E only to wait for twelve hours to be given a printed-out sheet of paper with the same number they rang on, We all deserve so much better. Since I couldn’t get a job being a support worker, I made it my job to inspire and help people and it’s working. Over the past few years I've gained quite a following on social media and have my own website offering coaching. My Instagram account (michelletorezcares) at the time of writing, has just under 9,000 followers. I write free leaflets about ways to cope with depression and how to keep motivated in this life and send them to my followers. On a daily basis, people reach out to me to tell me that I have inspired them and helped them not give up, and that is the biggest success of all for me.
I do live talks on all of my social media platforms about my journey, ways to keep motivated and how being mindful and living in the moment can save your life. I will be passionate about this for the rest of my life. I aim to become a recognised public speaker to show the other people who have been through similar to me, that, no matter how horrible your situation may be right now, nothing stays the same forever, please, never, ever give up.
- Peace and thank you for reading